The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


The Mask and Wig club performs its annual free show for freshmen. The show introduces new students to the musical comedy troupe. A DP series will follow the group this fall in an occasional series.

For a bunch of guys in drag preparing to parade in front of hundreds of freshmen, they were pretty relaxed.

"This is pretty conservative for us," explained College sophomore Jason Ketover, as he hung out backstage at the annual Mask and Wig free show on Sunday, where men dressing like women - and one sporting a large sequined model of male genitalia - is business as usual.

The free show tends to be laid back for club members, Mask and Wig Undergraduate Chairman and College senior RJ Wynn said, because the performance is a compilation of sketches that have been done in the past and are well-known.

"It's not intense," he said.

The club puts on the show to introduce the latest crop of students to their more-than-100-year-old musical comedy troupe, and to hopefully find a few good men to join their ranks of cast, band, crew and business staff.

Featuring sketches that showcase the different styles of bits the group performs, according to Business Manager and College senior Shaun Alperin, the show elicited laughter from the audience with sketches that satirized everything from Penn's student body to Sesame Street.

The sexual images and profanity in the show are designed to attract interest among prospective new members.

"We like to shock and awe them," explained Fall Show Director and Engineering senior Abhrajeet Roy.

Throughout the performance, leaders of the four different sections made pitches about their respective departments and encouraged guys to come out to the auditions and interviews the following night.

About 50 people answered the call for new members, flocking to the ARCH building and to the Mask and Wig clubroom in Riepe College House Monday night in hopes of participating in Mask and Wig's future productions.

Prospective members filled out application forms for each section they were interested in trying out for.

The questionnaires for the cast, band, business staff and crew had questions ranging from the serious ("What is your experience writing and arranging music?") to the not-so-serious ("Who is the best person to steal a McDonald's flag in front of?")

Engineering freshman and auditioner Zachary Wasserman enjoyed the humor in the form, calling it the "best application I ever filled out."

The process for joining Mask and Wig varied by section, with each division holding separate try-outs - the band in the club room and the others in the ARCH building.

The audition process for the cast consisted of two rounds.

In the first round, auditioners were taught a few measures of the musical-theater song "Oklahoma" and then sang it to Mask and Wig upperclassmen and professional staff members behind closed doors.

Those who received a callback after they sang then participated in the second round, which involved dancing and acting auditions.

In the dancing portion, a choreographer taught the prospective cast members a short routine which consisted of both simple steps, such as the box-step, as well as more difficult moves like push-ups. The auditioners were also given the chance to dance free-style.

In the acting portion that immediately followed, auditioners paired up and acted out a sketch originally from Mask and Wig's fall 2006 show titled "Crazy Optometrist."

After both members of each pair performed both the doctor and patient roles in the scene, they were asked about their questionnaire responses and to briefly sing something they had done in the past or participate in a short improvisational exercise.

The band auditions typically asked the about-15 instrumentalists to play a solo piece, sight read and jam along with the rest of the band to a simple chord progression, according to Mask and Wig Band Section Head and College junior Charles Lynch.

The business and crew divisions interviewed their applicants. For the crew, some of the questions were about relevant experience while others were funny and designed to see what the candidate's personality is like, Wynn, a member of the crew, wrote in an e-mail.

Those who tried out enjoyed the process.

"It's fun," said College freshman Claude Alexander. "You get to sing and dance."

Though the try-out process varies across the sections, all four Mask and Wig branches were looking for similar qualities when choosing their new members - talent, experience and compatibility with the current members.

"We're trying to figure out if they will fit in with us as well as if they have any relevant experience," Wynn explained.

After a long night of deliberations - the crew finished at 11:30 p.m., but the cast finished even later - the results were posted on the club room door the next day. In all, six cast, two crew, two band and one business staff member were added.

"We really like the class," Wynn wrote. "We're expecting big things."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.